An Evaluation Of The Alcohol Education Trust's Intervention In Secondary Schools

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This report by the Alcohol Education Trust looks at the impact of their Talk About Alcohol intervention. The focus of this report is on students aged 15-16 (in Year 11). The study compares change in outcomes for an intervention group and a statistically matched comparison group. 

The intervention was piloted in ten schools across the UK before roll out. Talk about Alcohol intervention aims to:

  • Delay the age at which teenagers start drinking
  • Help ensure that if they choose to drink, they do so responsibly
  • Reduce the prevalence of drinking to get drunk and the antisocial consequences of drunkenness.

Key Findings:

There is evidence of an association between the intervention and a delay in the age at which some teenagers start to drink. Students in the intervention group had significantly lower odds than those in the comparison group of ever having had a drink.

The increase in the proportion of frequent drinkers over time was less among the intervention group, although the difference between groups was not statistically significant.

Knowledge amongst the comparison group had caught up with the intervention group (there was no significant difference between them at age 15-16).

The findings suggest that giving young people the facts about alcohol is not the only factor likely to influence behaviour. Helping young people to develop resilience and self-management skills to manage risk is also important. Messages about responsible drinking are important at this age.

Key messages for school leaders and teachers

The impact on delaying the onset of drinking is evidence that the Talk about Alcohol intervention is effective as an early intervention programme.

The evidence suggests the value in a harm minimisation approach and in revisiting alcohol education at different stages – for example, via early intervention before they begin drinking (the average age of first drink is 13), before young people begin to drink more frequently (around age 15), and as they approach adulthood.

Giving young people the facts about alcohol is not the only factor likely to influence behaviour – helping young people to develop resilience, rehearsal strategies, and self-management skills to manage risk is also important. Messages about responsible drinking are important at this age.

The evidence highlights the influence of the family in drinking behaviour – schools should consider how to engage parents in alcohol education programmes.

Key messages for policy-makers

There is evidence of impact of the Talk about Alcohol intervention, particularly in delaying the age at which teenagers start to drink. The materials can clearly support policy priorities concerning alcohol.

The evidence suggests that knowledge alone is not likely to be sufficient to change behaviour and identifies that a broader skills-based approach is ‘what works’ – this information will support Public Health England in understanding how to address its priority to reduce harmful drinking and alcohol-related hospital admissions.

Conclusions:

The findings highlight the influence of the family on the likelihood of drinking. This emphasises the importance of the AET information for parents, which aims to support them in making decisions about their own alcohol consumption, acting as role models for their children, setting boundaries and knowing where their children are and who they are with. Note that the evaluation has not explored the impact of information for parents

Although there was no significant difference in knowledge of alcohol between the groups, students in the intervention group were less likely to have ever had a drink. This could suggest that knowledge alone does not necessarily have an impact on behaviour, which supports the broader harm minimisation aim of the intervention, to help young people build resilience and understand how to manage risk. It could also suggest that the earlier higher knowledge scores among the intervention group influenced a sustained behaviour change.

The fact that the intervention group had not been asked to deliver any Talk about Alcohol sessions in the two years prior to the most recent survey could have restricted the impact on frequent drinking from becoming significant. With more intervention, might this group go on to drink significantly less often as adults.

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